I had Tuesday to Monday eve in mid-September in a race across the planet to take advantage of British Airways’ generous offer to fly a batch of entrepreneurs wherever they wanted to go in an effort to further each’s fast-growing businesses… at no cost.
My itinerary? Starting from home base of Boston, then to New York’s JFK, through London, with the ultimate destination– Singapore. Total air time one way? 18 hours. Total air and waiting in airport time one way? 24 hours.
What earned me the opportunity? First, membership in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (“EO,” www.eonetwork.org, formerly known as YEO, or Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization ) a global membership organization that is nearing 10,000 members across more than a 100 chapters. EO is one of a group of leadership organizations, including YPO, WPO, CEO, and several others. Qualifications for EO membership include annual revenues of $1 million or more, and either founder or majority ownership status in your business.
Hailing from the Boston chapter of 100 or so EO members made up of computer software and hardware entrepreneurs, legal and staffing professional services business owners, and a host of other small business founders including franchising, travel, consulting, real estate, and medical devices, I was made aware of the strategic partnership between British Airways and the EO organization. The following paragraph, detailing what a face-to-face opportunity would mean to the growth and expansion of our boutique retained executive search firm, BSG Team Ventures, was what I jotted down–
We have a presence in Boston, New York, Silicon Valley, and London. These are key global innovation centers. However, there is clearly a fifth and/or sixth location to round out our client value proposition of “on the ground coverage in the key innovation centers in the world”– and those are India and Asia. Although there is a term sometimes used that combines the two (“Chindia”), we feel that there is perhaps a need to be able to service our growth-stage clients in each. One alternative is a meaningful position in a location like Singapore, which is equidistant from both these key innovation markets.
The ability to set up a series of meetings with potential partners, and then bring pre-meeting calls and video conferences to an in-person, face-to-face setting, would be extremely meaningful in taking our business from EU-American only, to truly global, capable of better servicing the needs of our clients who continue to demand the need to themselves expand globally.
I had been to Singapore and Hong Kong in 2008 on business, and knew that another trip there would allow us to cement some developing relationships “face-to-face.” In 2008, we completed a VP Worldwide Sales search based out of Singapore, and are now working on another General Manager search based out of Tokyo for a leading global technology innovator. And with the recession of 2008-2009 projected to recover in west-bound fashion this time (Asia first, Europe second, and the U.S. last), China, Japan, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific corridor is important to every business, both large or small like ours.
Having won the right to cash in the BA offer, a plane load of entrepreneurs amassed down at JFK airport in New York. BA was everything they’ve built their reputation on-service-oriented and courteous, only as the British can be-with a send off in the first-class lounge that was rich in food, spirit(s), networking with other entrepreneurs, and a few humor-filled greetings speeches by both British Airways officials and the British government. Example of the power-networking in the BA lounge? I met up with Morgen Newman, co-founder of IdeaPaint, another Boston-based start-up that was a BA travel recipient, with a company out of Babson (my alma mater so plugging here) that has formulated a special paint that can be applied on any work surface that then functions as a “whiteboard,” completely erasable when using dry-erase markers. IdeaPaint is a tool for entrepreneurs that simply brilliant. Most entrepreneurs are visual thinkers, and this now allows us to scribble on every surface…. (“Beware office cleaners-these walls aren’t “dirty”…. DO NOT ERASE!”)
My itinerary and goals for the trip looked like the following: More